Christmas morning will be a little brighter for nearly a dozen area children courtesy of the Warren County Sheriff’s department.
Eleven children participated in the annual “Shop With a Deputy” program which was held Sunday, Dec. 16, at the Warrenton Wal-Mart store.
Participating children were chosen by the sheriff’s department with assistance from counselors at Warren County area schools.
“It was awesome,” asserted Sheriff Kevin Harrison, noting that everyone who participated — children, deputies and members of the sheriff’s department’s ladies auxiliary — had fun.
“Some of our new deputies are young, they’re not married and they don’t have families yet, but I think they had a lot of fun, as well.” he added. “It’s a neat experience.”
“We never have trouble getting people to participate,” Harrison said, adding that usually, he tries to “rotate” deputies and choose different members of the sheriff’s department to participate from one year to the next.
The experience not only is fun for the deputies, the sheriff remarked, adding that it’s also refreshing.
“I think sometimes our guys are used to dealing with serious, negative situations,” he stated. “It’s refreshing to deal with the innocence, the excitement and the happiness. It’s such a break from what they normally encounter.
“Christmas should be the happiest time of the year, and for an hour of the day, our guys got to share in that excitement,” Harrison continued. “When you see how much they appreciate this event, it tugs at your heartstrings.”
Goal Met by Donation
The sheriff’s department met its fund-raising goal for this year’s program the week before the event was held.
“We had a man from Warrenton come in who said he and his wife had a good year and they wanted to give back to the community,” Harrison said, pointing out that people usually make donations which cover one child’s participation in the program. That amount was set at $150 this year.
“When he wrote the check and handed it to me, I saw it was for multiple kids,” the sheriff said. “That floored me. He didn’t want any recognition. He just wanted to help someone.”
The donation “pushed us over the top” for this year and allowed the sheriff’s department to begin setting aside funds for next year’s event, Harrison explained. “This community is so supportive, and this is another small example of that.
“We’re already starting out 2013 with the first couple of kids sponsored,” he stated. “It’s a wonderful testament to the community spirit of Warren County.”
A ‘Manageable’ Number
When the “Shop With a Deputy” program was established, approximately eight to 10 children participated. There have been more participants in past years, but Harrison said the department has settled on a maximum of 12 children each year.
He said 12 participants is a “manageable” number, both in terms of raising funds for the event and having enough people ensure the event runs smoothly, between the sheriff’s department and the ladies auxiliary.
“We don’t want to do something we can’t sustain, and that’s a goal we can meet every year,” Harrison remarked.
The participants purchased a variety of items, both large and small, from small toys and clothes to a new pink bicycle and a matching helmet.
Harrison said the thought that the children who participated will be able to experience the anticipation and excitement of Christmas Day is perhaps the most fulfilling part of “Shop With a Deputy.”
“Young kids can’t wait to get up Christmas morning and open gifts and then ride their new bike or play with a toy,” he said. “It’s a neat thing to think about that.”
After the gifts were bought, the items were taken back the sheriff’s department headquarters where they were wrapped. Deputies delivered the gifts to all the participating households Sunday evening.
Harrison said many of the participants also purchased presents for their families.
“A lot of these kids are buying something for their parents, their brothers and sisters, and then they got something for themselves,” he stated. “Some of these kids could really stretch a dollar.”
“Every deputy who has ever participated has said this is one of the most fun things they’ve ever done,” Harrison added. “After a few minutes, the kids are calling the guys by name, asking questions. It’s amazing how being a part of the Christmas spirit enables us to start building relationships with these kids.
“We’re doing something for the kids and the community, and it means so much more to be a part of it. We look forward to this program every year.”
The anticipation will continue to build for the participants until next Tuesday morning.